Sunday, May 07, 2006

Jesus: He Was Not Like Anyone Else!

Audrey Tautou and Tom Hanks in the soon-to-be-released movie, The DaVinci Code.

(Fourth Sunday of Easter (B): This homily was given on May 7, 2006 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Acts 4: 8-12; 1 John 3: 1-2; John 10: 11-18.)

[For the audio version of this homily click here: Fourth Sunday of Easter 2006]

Jesus was not like everyone else.

In fact, Jesus was not like anyone else!

He was absolutely, positively unique: a divine person with both a divine and a human nature.

If this is what you believe—if you accept this fundamental truth of the faith and say Amen to it—then you are a Christian (at least on this particular point of theology!). In essence, you believe and profess exactly what St. Peter, St. Paul and all the great Fathers of the Church believed and professed centuries ago.

If, on the other hand, you don’t accept this basic truth about our Lord, you will probably end up doing what many people have done during the last 2,000 years: you will fabricate for yourself a Jesus who is just like everyone else! That is to say, you will create for yourself a false Christ who thinks and who acts just like an ordinary human person. He will sin; he will have base desires affected by concupiscence, like we all do; he will even get married and have children (because we all know that only weirdoes remain celibate throughout their lives!).

In a word, you will create a Jesus much like the one Dan Brown has created for the world in his novel, The DaVinci Code.

What amuses me about his book—and about the upcoming movie that’s based on it—is that so many gullible people (especially in the media) are acting as if Brown’s assertions are “brand new discoveries” about Jesus and Mary Magdalene and the Catholic Church.

Not quite.

Brown gets most of his so-called “historical information” from other authors who have a very definite agenda: that agenda being the destruction of the Catholic Church and true Christianity, and the promotion of Gnosticism, radical feminism and pagan goddess worship.

Interestingly enough, Brown actually cites some of these authors—like Elaine Pagels and Margaret Starbird—within the text of his novel.

At least he’s honest about his sources—even if he isn’t honest about much else.

Like Pagels and Starbird, Dan Brown desperately wants to undermine the true faith—and the Church that teaches it with the authority of the divine Jesus Christ. That’s his goal. To attain it, he attempts to discredit Jesus: the real Jesus—the Jesus of the New Testament—the Jesus that we and other Christians have believed in for over 2,000 years.

His most ridiculous and most harmful assertion, incidentally, is not that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and fathered children by her (as bad as that might be). Rather, his most ridiculous and vicious lie is that in 325 A.D. the Church “made” Jesus into something he was not.

According to Brown, in the year 325 the bishops at the Council of Nicaea, after being pressured by the Roman Emperor Constantine, decided to declare Jesus “God”—even though everyone else at the time knew that Jesus was an ordinary human person who was just like everybody else.

So I guess St. Thomas was wrong when he said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 28)

I guess St. John was wrong when he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

I guess St. Paul was wrong when he said, “In [Christ] the fullness of deity resides in bodily form.” (Colossians 2:9)

And I guess even Jesus was wrong when he said, “The Father and I are one.” (John 10: 30)

Sorry, Dan, but these passages of the Bible were written long before 325 A.D., and all of them clearly affirm Jesus’ divinity. Like it or not, he was—and he is—God: the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who took on human flesh and was born of the Virgin Mary!

Dan Brown’s problem is that he doesn’t know his history—or perhaps he just doesn’t care to know his history. The Council of Nicaea, for example, did not conjure up the idea that Jesus was divine. It did nothing of the sort. Rather, the Council of Nicaea DEFENDED the truth that Jesus was divine against the heretic Arius and his followers who were publicly proclaiming that Jesus was not equal to the heavenly Father! For Arius, Jesus was a created being, and not the only begotten Son of God.

Notice how all of our Scripture readings today affirm the uniqueness of Jesus. Dan Brown would definitely not be pleased! For example, in our first reading from Acts 4 St. Peter says, “There is no salvation through anyone else [but Jesus], nor is there any other name given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Jesus saves us. But the only reason he is able to save us is because he’s divine! This is the truth that stands behind Peter’s words in this passage. Sorry once again, Dan, but no human person could save the entire world from sin and eternal death, because no human person could do anything which has infinite value! But since Jesus was a divine person, his actions did have infinite value! Thus his one sacrifice on the cross could—and did!—pay the price for every sin that would be committed in human history: from the sin of our first parents, to the final sin that will be committed just before the end of the world.

In our second reading from 1 John 3, the apostle says that “the reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him [that is to say, Jesus].” Only by the grace of God did men and women recognize Jesus for who he really was—the divine Son of God. Worldly people like Herod, Pilate and most of the scribes and Pharisees did not. To them, he was just like everyone else.

And then we have this beautiful Gospel text from John 10 where Jesus calls himself “the good shepherd”. In one of his writings Pope Benedict XVI has noted that it was fairly typical for kings back in the first century to refer to themselves as “shepherds”. But they usually did it with a tone of cynicism! In their minds they were the powerful shepherds, while the people they ruled were just lowly, mindless sheep that they could abuse and even kill if they wanted to.

And so, once again, in this passage from John 10, the uniqueness of Jesus is affirmed. You see, by calling himself “the good shepherd,” Jesus was saying, “Be clear about it, I am not like those earthly rulers who treat you like disposable objects; I am not like the kings of this world. I’m different! I don’t abuse and kill my subjects: I die for them! The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. That’s who I am—and that’s what I do.”

Many people, sadly, will go to see The DaVinci Code when it opens in theaters in a few days, and they will be tricked into believing in a false Jesus who will do absolutely nothing for them—aside from making them complacent in their sin.

Quite frankly, you can have that Jesus. I want nothing to do with him! Give me the real one—the unique one—the one spoken about in these 3 Scripture readings; the one in whose name I can be saved; the one who has the power to rescue me from the eternal consequences of my sins; the one who loves me with an eternal love, and who died for me like a good shepherd.

That’s the only Jesus I want, because it’s the Jesus I need!

So do you.

And so does Mr. Dan Brown.

By the grace of God, may he someday realize that.